Garden Centre Owner Defends Sign Which 'Demanded 10% Tory Tax' From Customers Who Voted Conservative

·News Editor, Yahoo News UK
The blackboard, which has since been removed, outside Mr Woodruff's garden centre. (Twitter)
The blackboard, which has since been removed, outside Mr Woodruff's garden centre. (Twitter)

A Labour supporting garden centre owner has defended his tongue-in-cheek sign asking for a '10% Tory tax' from anyone who voted Conservative.

Matt Woodruff, who owners Woodruffs Yard in Lewes, East Sussex, placed a blackboard outside his store proposing a 'Tory tax' as 'one of the "tough" decisions I need to make' after the Conservatives gained an overall majority in the general election last week.

His sign asks for any Conservative voters to identify themselves upon entering so he can 'happily apply the 10% Tory tax on your plants'.

Mr Woodruff's sign adds: 'I'm sure, as someone who has opted to support a party of elitists, self-serving types, that you understand that this is one of the many "tough" decisions that I need to make to "balance the books" under your preferred govt. Don't be a shy Tory!'

His sign also has a message for UKIP voters, adding: 'Oh, and UKIP voters, please shop elsewhere.'

Mr Woodruff's sign in full. (Twitter)
Mr Woodruff's sign in full. (Twitter)

Garden centre owner Matt Woodruff. (Nicky Bryant/Matt Woodruff)
Garden centre owner Matt Woodruff. (Nicky Bryant/Matt Woodruff)

Mr Woodruff, 46, said his light-hearted blackboard was in response to Lib Dem MP Norman Baker losing his seat to the Conservatives by 1,000 votes in Lewes.

He said noone has paid the 'Tory tax' yet, telling the Guardian: 'Only one woman has told me she voted Tory – and that was after she paid so I couldn’t add on the tax. Obviously that’s a joke anyway, and she was very friendly about it.

'The only bad reaction I’ve had were one Tory couple and a couple of people from Ukip.

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'I don’t really care about the repercussions. I don’t earn a fortune and this might be the death of my business but so be it. Sometimes you have to just stand up and say what you believe in.'

Mr Woodruff's blackboard - which he has since insisted was a joke - received a mixed response.

The father-of-two, who has owned the garden centre for seven years, said he has received abusive emails from some, but been lauded for his sense of humour by others.

One customer wrote on the Lewes Forum website: 'Over the years I have spent a significant amount on plants from Matt Woodruff … Sadly no more. His blatant anti-Tory message displayed today has cost him my custom. If it was meant to be ‘tongue in cheek’ it has badly misfired.'

But he's insisted he's also received plenty of positives messages.

Mr Woodruff's partner Nicky Bryant, 48, told Yahoo: 'Neither of us can quite believe how crazy it has been since he put that sign up.

'We've had hundreds of emails from around the world. Matt just wanted to connect with people and say that he didn't vote for the Conservatives.

'Afew people have said his business could go under but he's had plenty of messages of support. I'm really proud of him.'

Since Mr Woodruff's stunt, another business has placed an identical tongue-in-cheek banner outside their premises.

Her Haggerston, a coffee shop in East London, made a near-identically-worded sign outside their branch today.

Like Mr Woodruff, owner First Sukpaiboon, 35, insisted it was 'a joke', which 'was not to be taken too seriously.'

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